LINGUIST List 23.4094

Tue Oct 02 2012

Review: Discourse Analysis: Aumüller (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 02-Oct-2012
From: Pierre-Yves Modicom <>
Subject: Narrativität als Begriff
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EDITOR: Aumüller, MatthiasTITLE: Narrativität als BegriffSUBTITLE: Analysen und Anwendungsbeispiele zwischen philologischer undanthropologischer OrientierungPUBLISHER: De Gruyter MoutonYEAR: 2012

Pierre-Yves Modicom, U. Paris Sorbonne and Ecole Normale Supérieure

INTRODUCTIONThis volume collects papers dealing with theoretical and epistemological issuesof contemporary research in narratology. The twelve articles represent severaltraditions from that field, which do not all pertain equally to linguistics.

SUMMARYIn the general introduction, Aumüller sketches terminological andepistemological issues faced by contemporary narratology. The extreme variety ofconcepts used by narratologists is partly due to cultural transfers (manynotions being imported from French or Russian) and to the specific disciplinarybackgrounds of researchers: narratology appears to be a domain more than adiscipline of its own. These problems are ignored by many narratologists butthey constitute the core topic of the volume. For Aumüller, who uses categoriesof lexical semantics and of modern analytic philosophy, narratologists shouldshow more concern for the value of their own concepts and work on more soliddefinitions.

The first part is devoted to "philological" approaches, and the seven articlesbelong to fields such as of cultural studies, cinema, literature, linguisticsand history.

The first chapter, "Narrativität in der wissenschaftlichen Geschichtsschreibung"(Axel Rüth), discusses the status of narration in historiography. Many modernhistorians refuse to regard narration as an epistemologically valid way torepresent history, but many others, including Rüth, argue that there is noproper alternative to narrativity in historiography, so long as narration isdefined as a cognitive way of apprehending temporally situated events. Manyexamples tend to demonstrate the ubiquity of narrativity, even in studies bycritics of narrative historiography. This finally leads Rüth to discussdifferent types of narrative presentations of history and to compare theirrespective advantages and drawbacks.

The second paper, "Rudimentäres Erzählen nicht-fiktionaler Ereignisse infernsehjournalistischen Nachrichtenfilmen" (Karl Renner) is devoted to narration("Erzählen") and reporting ("Berichten") as supposedly opposed categories.Renner advocates a formalized, event-semantic approach to narrative patterns. Hesketches an ontology of narrative processes as displacements in a semanticspace. On this foundation, he describes the way German TV journalists dealt withthe crisis of the German Social Democratic Party in 2008. Comparing differentformats, he shows how those basic patterns are always present, yet withdifferent orientations, especially regarding the argumentative and moral biasesof the narration, which are used differently depending on the media type.

The third contribution, "Erzählen und Spielen: Zur Bedeutung des Erzählbegriffsin den Game Studies" (Britta Neitzel), is an epistemological, meta-theoreticaldiscussion of recent polemics among specialists in video games. The main problemhere is whether the event patterns present in video games and the orientation toa goal are sufficient features to speak of narration. Neitzel distinguishesdifferent types of sequences defined by the degree of autonomy of the player andaddresses the question of the narrator of video games, who could be identifiedas the player herself.

In "Gattungsbezogene Unterschiede in der Inszenierung von Ereignishaftigkeit undder Zuschreibung von Relevanz im Kurzfilm", Jens Kiefer uses the framework ofrelevance theory to discuss the variation of narrative types in short films. Thenarration is shown to be often fragmentary, and many constraints appear to belinked with the subtype of short film we are faced with. At the end of thepaper, which is illustrated by many examples, relevance is reinterpreted as themajor criterion for the conception of narration in short films.

The fifth paper, "Literaturwissenschaftliche Erzählbegriffe" (MatthiasAumüller), details the history and the epistemological status of concepts usedby narratologists working on literature. First, he isolates features that areoften described as constitutive for narrativity and examines possiblecounterarguments against each. Then, departing from the necessity of classifyingdifferent subtypes of narratives, he compares the merits and shortcomings of thedifferent approaches.

The sixth article, "Narrativität aus linguistischer Sicht" by Volkmar Lehmann,and the seventh, "Zur Ontogenese des narrativen Redetyps" by Tanja Anstatt,should be read as a whole. They are the most directly linguistic contributionsin the volume and rely on the same theoretical premises, mostly explicated byLehmann. This chapter begins with a short presentation of different pastattempts at identifying the core features of narrativity in texts. Yet, unlikesome macrostructural approaches in text linguistics, he makes the case for thestudy of narrativity at a microtextual scale. The main question addressed isthat of the relation of predicates to the so-called "Psychological Now". In thisperspective, tense and aspect play a central role. Based on Russian and Germanexamples, Lehmann distinguishes four types of narration that all have their owntemporal paradigms. After showing the role of perfectivity in the constitutionof narration, Lehmann finally provides examples illustrating the ubiquity of therelation to the "Psychological Now". The following contribution is devoted tothe acquisition of the temporal and aspectual paradigms isolated by Lehmann foreach narrative type. Anstatt's sample comes from German and Russian children.Anstatt focuses on the most prominent, the so-called olim-type, which exhibitspast tense (resp. preterite) as default temporal and aspectual norm. After adetailed presentation of tense, aspect and mood in Russian and a comparison withGerman, she describes the different steps between the initial, purely deicticand self-oriented accounts from the final verbalization of "olim-narratives".

The second part is devoted to "anthropologically oriented concepts ofnarration". Chapter 8, "Unter-/Brechung in der talking cure" (MichaelSchödlbauer), is a presentation of some discussions among psychotherapists andpsychoanalysts dealing with the status of interrupted narration. Interruption isnot only conceived as external interruption by the therapists, but also asself-interruption or perturbation of the tale by associations of ideas, otherreminiscences or digressions. Drawing on a detailed case study, Schödlbauerexplores the constitutive role of interruption in psychoanalytical narration.Chapter nine, "Narrativität als philosophischer Begriff" by Inga Römer, is acase for narrativity as a core anthropological pattern with considerableimplications for the constitution of self-identity as well as for moral. Shemainly follows Ricoeur (1983) and examines possible counterarguments. Sheconcedes that some narrativist claims go too far, but sketches a more flexibleconcept of narrativity that is supposed to resist claims made by philosophersopposed to the primacy of narrative patterns, such as Galen Strawson (2004). In"Narrationen als Repräsentationen empirischer Prozesse -- Erzählungen alsempirische Daten in der Soziologie", Ivonne Küsters defends the use ofnarratives in sociological interviews. She gives several examples of interviewsshe conducted, explaining how structural constraints force the interviewee toproduce more coherent speech, but also partly force her to be more sincere andprecise than in other forms of interviews. Pragmatic constraints therefore workas an instrument to provide more valuable data for social researchers. The focusof "Geschichten und Gegengeschichten -- Erzählen im Strafrecht" (KatiHannken-Illjes), lies on narratives produced by speakers during in judicialcontexts. Hannken-Illje's approach distinguishes a "dominant story" and"counter-stories", a conflict constitutive for judicial bargaining. With a casestudy, she provides a fine-grained analysis of this conflict of stories andshows how intricate conflicting stances are. Moreover, narration is alwaysstrongly linked with argumentation.

Finally, in "Narration in der Psychologie", Norbert Groeben and UrsulaChristmann examine methodological and theoretical conflicts within psychologyusing the example of the treatment of narrativity. On the one hand, the authorsdistinguish "quantitative, experimental" approaches that aim at isolatingpatterns and macrostructures for the cognitive processing of narrative texts.The search for coherence and causal relations is shown to play a major cognitiverole from this perspective. On the other hand, "cultural, qualitative"approaches rather focus on the articulation of meaning and social, culturalfunction of narratives. They are more context-sensitive and can lead to finedistinctions of narrative subtypes. In the conclusion, the authors make the casefor tighter cooperation between these approaches.

EVALUATIONIf we consider the domain of linguistics broadly, we can identify three mainsubfields pertinent to narrativity: discourse analysis (especially vis-à-vissociolinguistics since Labov & Waletzky 1967), text linguistics and philosophyof language. All three approaches are dealt with in this volume. Thediscourse-analytical and critical approach can be exemplified by the studies onnarratives in judicial context (Hannken-Illjes), but also by the study ofnarrativity in journalism (Renner). Both are concerned with the argumentativedimension of narration and context-sensitive types of narratives. In the case ofHannke-Illjes, the paradigm of narratives and counter-narratives is discussedwith clear arguments and examples that should interest sociolinguists working onnarrativity. Text linguistics, for its part, is not always easy to distinguishfrom discourse analysis, especially when the study is focused on the question ofgenres. Still, if we concentrate on text processing, we can say that the paperon "narration in psychology" (Groeben & Christmann) is a valuable,interdisciplinary contribution to that subfield. This is also true of Küsters,whose thesis on the empirical consequences of processing constraints induced bynarrative form should be noticed. Furthermore, Hannken-Illjes as well as Rüth(on narrativity in historiography) and Aumüller (in a more meta-theoretical,literary fashion) also provide stimulating treatments of genres. Still, acentral dimension of text linguistic approaches of narrativity is hardly presentin this volume, making it somewhat frustrating: there is no study on connectionand discourse particles. The single contribution dealing with this topic isAnstatt's study of the acquisition of narrative patterns, where the appearanceof connective forms is mentioned seen as a step in the acquisition process. Thatquestion of connection is central and would have been very profitable forinterdisciplinary approaches, for instance for researchers working on thearticulation of narration and argumentation, but also for more cognitive,psychological accounts that could have used those phenomena as pertinent data onconstraints and patterns of narration. Finally, philosophy of language isrepresented mainly by Römer, but the discussion of the epistemological andknowledge-theoretical status of narration is also very present in Rüth'scontribution. Römer's chapter is at the same time a good introduction forreaders from other disciplines. Alongside Küsters on the empirical value ofnarratives in sociology, those texts invite the reader to consider the role ofnarrativity in the acquisition of knowledge. They provide good arguments fordetecting narrative patterns inside scientific discourse, which should not leavediscourse-analysts, text linguists and philosophers indifferent. For thesereasons, the volume can provide a linguist with refreshing ideas and matches itsinterdisciplinary objectives. Besides, the terminological and epistemologicalreflexion by Aumüller in the introduction is very valuable and could be a modelfor linguists working on narration: In this respect, the volume as a whole is avaluable reading.

The studies by Lehmann and Anstatt deserve special attention. They areintimately related and both authors also refer to each other in their texts:Anstatt explicitly presupposes Lehmann's categories, whereas Lehmann invites thereader to look at Anstatt's work for further illustration. Moreover, they alsowork on the same languages (German and Russian). Ideally, they could (or evenshould) be considered as one and the same paper. It is therefore somewhatsurprising that the basic explanations of the Russian aspectual system innarrative texts are mentioned only by Anstatt, even though they could alreadyhave been useful for non-specialists reading Lehmann´s text. But in spite ofthose details, they prove valuable reading. Lehmann's typology of narrativetypes based on their relation to the speaker and to the "Psychological Now" canprovide elements for a general reflexion on the relationship between narrationand deixis, a question about which Anstatt provides the reader with very preciseand useful empirical data. In this respect, her paper is a stimulatingcontribution to debates on language acquisition and on deixis. As regards thetheory of the "Psychological Now" itself, its value cannot be denied, butLehmann could have explained more clearly the advantages of this terminologicaland theoretical choice compared to the more classic concept of Origo inheritedfrom Bühler (1934). Moreover, the end of his study seems to point to theubiquity of the relation between temporal stance and "Psychological Now".Nevertheless, Lehmann does not show that there is any specific relation to thisreference point, except precisely the one which can be expected regarding thereference to the Origo in any linguistic utterance. For instance, the discussionof future in the past pp. 180-181 is convincing in itself, but does notdemonstrate anything that would not have been expected if we consider Origo andPsychological Now to be one and the same. Apart from this, the paper is avaluable, comprehensive system for classifying narratives with respect todeixis. Russian are valuable, since the predominance of aspect in Slaviclanguages leads to specific phenomena that are absent from other (e.g. Germanic)languages. Thus, Lehmann and Anstatt can point to some features of narrativitythat prove useful in determining the architecture of deictic operations innarration. More generally, the approach defended here is quite original andshould be pursued: Whereas text linguistics often focus on macrostructures andconnectives, Lehmann chooses to concentrate his research on minimal structuresand on verbal forms, a choice that would rather be expected from research oninformation structure or operations of back- and foregrounding. This approachshould obviously be pursued by researchers working on other languages.

In his article, Renner uses a model developed by Lotmann (1972) for the analysisof literary narratives. He modified this model and formalized it in aset-theoretical fashion that makes it very valuable for linguists working on thesemantics of events and processes. Whereas Lotmann's model was mainlytopological and accounted for events in narratives in terms of boundarytransgression, in Renner's account, those spaces are semantic. They are definedby an ontology and a matrix of rules, and narration is considered with respectto the movements and changes inside the semantic spaces. This formalizationseems to describe efficiently and systematically agentive predicates. Therefore,it might be profitable for people working on event semantics to take note ofthis model, one that could bring new perspectives, especially for the study ofpredicate sequences in link with textual progression.

REFERENCESBühler, Karl. 1934. Sprachtheorie. Die Darstellungsfunktion der Sprache. Jena:G. Fischer.

Labov, William and Joshua Waletzky. 1967. Narrative analysis. In J. Helm (Ed.),Essays on the Verbal and Visual Arts. Seattle: U. of Washington Press. p. 12-44.

Ricoeur, Paul. 1983-1985. Temps et récit (3 volumes). Paris: Le Seuil.

Strawson, Galen. 2004. Against Narrativity. In Ratio 17. Hoboken:Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 428-452.

Lotman, Jurij M. 1972. Die Struktur literarischer Texte. Munich: Fink.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERPierre-Yves Modicom holds a M.A. in German linguistics from U.Paris-Sorbonne. He is currently studying philosophy and German at EcoleNormale Supérieure (Paris).

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